The Darkest Part of the Forest was one of those books. You know what I mean right? The ones where it feels like you have been physically pulled into the pages and dropped off somewhere in the deep dark fairy infested woods to fend for yourself… And of course since you didn’t know you were IN fairy land you accidentally drank the elder wine some fantastical creature offered you and now you’re probably going to be stuck there forever and ever….But at least the wine is good!!
Because of course that’s the thing about books like this. Even though the world of the story is a dark and dangerous one and chances are you are not brave or clever enough to have any hope of not dying immediately you still desperately want to go live in the story. Really, I think if Holly Black showed up and told me “P.S. this shit is for real… probably you won’t survive an hour but you can trrrrryyyyy *cackle cackle cackle*” I’d be out the door and stamping thrice on fairy knolls before I even noticed that evil gleam in her eye.
Speaking of which, one of the things I loved about the world Black created was that it seemed to slip so nicely into the truth of our day to day existence. Sometimes when an author does this to me with a fantasy realm it throws me or at least takes me a while to adjust to the rules of the not quite parallel universe of the book. But for whatever reason it was easy as (very dangerous faire) pie to accept that somewhere in upstate New York (Or Philly, or somewhere close) there was a tiny tourist town with a fey population… maybe its because the tourists all went there to visit the boy in the glass coffin but like me they didn’t quite believe it was real.
Truth be told, I am not entirely sure I believe there AREN’T places like that somewhere… I mean…the legends grew up somewhere right??
Fantasizing about running away to join the fairy revel aside, I think the thing that drew me in and held me fast to this story was the relationship between Hazel and Ben. I have made no secret of the fact that sibling love is the lifeblood of many of my favorite stories and this one was no different. What WAS unique was the dynamics between this sibling pair. Often times (in my own family even) we assign roles… She’s the oldest so she’s the protector, she’s the baby so she’s the one we fight for etc and then of course you spend all kinds of time realizing that no one really fits these roles anyway. Sure it will always be my job to protect my little sisters but at some point you have to learn to share that job. Hazel and Ben were always there and it made them beautiful and dynamic to read.
Hazel for example is the warrior, that much is pretty defined (and hella awesome). She is carrying a terrible secret and you know immediately that she will do ANYTHING for Ben. But just because she might win in a sword fight (ok… she would definitely win) doesn’t mean Ben is any less likely to run off into the woods wielding an axe when she’s in trouble… I loved watching Hazel deal with the aftermath of the choices she made to protect her brother… because while ANY sister knows that no price is too high when it comes to saving our siblings it is heart wrenching to watch both of them make mistake after mistake chasing after that salvation.
And Ben, oh Ben… Ben takes “tortured artist” to a new level.. I loved the internal struggle he was facing between the absolute NEED to play music and the fury he felt at being controlled by it… art is like that ya know? Not to mention his pervasive fear that he wasn’t really himself because the art had so completely shaped his life… Whether you are an artist or not I think we can all relate to that. We all find ourselves at moments in our lives staring around wondering if the choices we made that brought us there were even ours to begin with… but even worse is the knowledge that WE really DID make those choices and that “fate” is just a pretty lie.
This book was so sneaky like that, oddly hushed, overflowing with magic and yet FULL of uncomfortable moments.(talk about #morallycomplicatedYA !!!) I must confess that as a reader I always love when I close a book and realize that I am more than a little heartbroken by a narrative I hardly even noticed while I was reading (like the undertones of racism and neglect that flowed quietly below this story). To me that quality is what makes a book worth reading over and over and over again just so you can dig out and dissect all those little side stories and commentary (I have admittedly read this one several times now… this is actually my 3rd attempt at finishing this discussion which I began ages ago).
So combine all that with not one but TWO rather appealing, gloriously complex love interests (I may appreciate social commentary but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it even more wrapped around a bit of romance) and I was sold half way to next may (is that a saying?? can it be a saying? it seems to make sense in my discombobulated brain).
For me there was so much to love about the this book (if you have not yet read it I obviously believe you should add it to your black friday shopping list… or I would believe that if I didn’t hate black friday) not least of which is that (as far as I know) it is a standalone story. Now, if you’ve read any of my other blogs or had more than 5 min of conversation with me you KNOW I love a series… But school has indeed eaten my life and these days I have fallen into a well of reading books I already know and love for the sake of comfort and time.. If any of you are anything like me you know its impossible to put down a fresh good book.. and I will plow right on through a 15 book series if presented with one (DO NOT START THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES IN MED SCHOOL) so it’s really best for my sleep schedule and grades if I stick to these gorgeous thought provoking stand alone novels 🙂
That being said… Ive got 4 more days of break and if anyone has any suggestions of what I should read in that time I’m all ears!!! (I am totally following #morallycomplicatedYA but I could use a bit of guidance since I’m out of the loop book wise and that hash tag was an avalanche of amazingness!)
Also… if you are reading this… thanks!!!! I don’t know if/when I will be back but I want you all to know that I’ve missed you 🙂